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Picture: PEXELS/DIGITALBUGGU
Picture: PEXELS/DIGITALBUGGU

The unprecedented times in which we find ourselves demand that SMEs face challenges head-on, armed with the right information and tools to adapt and thrive. With so much at stake, it’s imperative to know exactly how the SME landscape is unfolding and to be fighting fit to weather the storms of disruption.

The Standard Bank SME Summit, hosted by business growth expert and Aurik CEO Pavlo Phitidis, is an online series, which aims to provide SME owners with insights into the latest industry intelligence and strategies as well as practical tips on how to transform businesses into more resilient and relevant entities.

The previous event focused on what action is required to reset your business to take advantage of the gaps and opportunities created by change. This event — part three of the series — highlighted the opportunities in crisis and how to channel these into rebuilding your business.

Phitidis pointed out that as much as crises can threaten our wellbeing, ambitions, dreams and hopeful expectations, they provide a profound opportunity for personal and business advantage.

“The reason is simple: crises mean change,” he said. “Assess what’s changed temporarily, permanently, and fundamentally across customers, collaborators, capabilities, competitors and conditions. Whether you have a product or service, customer engagement and how you service those customers will make all the difference when rebuilding your business.”

A panel of business leaders, including Robyn Zinman, CEO of OptiSmile Advanced Dentistry; Naiema Abrahams, group MD of Freightmore; Saskia Hill, CEO and owner of MCS Debt Recovery and Connect BPS; and Sunshine Hlamalani, the co-founder of advertising agency Cheri Yase Kasi, provided insights from their own businesses.

Different groups of customers need to be marketed to in different ways

The first cog of any business is marketing. Customers are the most valuable element of any business. Critically important is how the business engages with these customers and provides a good experience. During the Covid-19 pandemic the challenge for businesses that sell a service rather than a product is how to market it. For Hill the solution was a visual and highly engaging video.

It’s impossible to be all things to all people, pointed out Phitidis. Understand who your market is and solve their particular problems. When you are marketing a business it’s less about the product or service than it is about the lived reality of your customer. Different groups of customers need to be marketed to in different ways.

The marketing function then needs to be aligned with the second cog, which is sales. However, before selling to customers they need to feel heard and understood. For Zinman, technology plays a critical role in the sales process. Businesses need to ensure that there is no expectation gap. Selling is not about pushing a product or service but about creating a sales engagement process that helps customers understand what they will experience before the sale has even been made.

Both the previous cogs then need to be aligned with the third and final cog, which is operations. Delivering on the expectations created during marketing and the promise made in the sales process is the need for efficient operations. At the same time, building relationships with clients is critical.

Get the entire process right and the business will benefit from referrals from satisfied clients. Expertise will help to set you apart.

To register for part four of the series, on September 22 at 9.30am, visit www.smesummit.co.za.

The next Standard Bank SME Summit, in partnership with Business Day, will focus on reigniting businesses for the future.

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